Book Reviews: Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick and Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan

GorgeousGorgeous
Paul Rudnick
Scholastic Press, May 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-46426-0
Hardcover

What an odd little duck this is.  I confess that, as I was reading it, I would occasionally stop and ask myself how I would write a review about it.  Frankly, I don’t recall reading anything quite like this.  Before I go too far; I love unique and weird, so all aforementioned and following descriptions are meant as compliments, not complaints.

First, this is not a book that “pulled me in”.  Rather, there seemed to be a deliberate attempt to keep the reader on the outside, looking in; very cool for this particular story.  The impossible happens often, without explanation or apology.  Our main character, Becky/Rebecca, seems open to it, so it was easy for this reader to accept the oddities as well.  It was actually quite refreshing to simply acknowledge and accept, instead of grappling with a pseudo-explanation as to how these bizarre things were taking place.  I enjoyed this part of the book tremendously.

Next, we have the story-line.  Becky’s life, nothing to be particularly proud of, is shattered by the death of her mother.  Knowing that she has nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Becky stumbles upon a name and phone number hidden away.  Enter Tom Kelly, world-famous designer, entrepreneur and all-around embodiment of fame.  He quickly promises Becky that she will become “the most beautiful person in the world”, with minimal catches.  Having nothing to lose, she agrees to give it a shot.

Now, we have a couple of things going on.  One being, how will Becky, nee Rebecca, handle the beauty, fame, and adoration; but, most importantly, will it improve her life?  Two, why is Tom Kelly doing this?  Clearly, not out of the kindness of his heart—he doesn’t appear to have one.  Soon, true love follows.  Just as Rebecca goes for the gold, Tom Kelly cleanly jerks the rug out from under her.  Bye-bye beauty, hello Becky….deal with that!

Mr. Rudnick’s characters are so very real that this reader tended to keep them at arm’s length, rather than blissfully enveloping them and accepting their enviable perfection.  He details a full-blown adult tantrum beautifully.  We’ve all had those moments when we are absolutely livid, yet the harshest derogatory term that comes to mind is “fart-face”.  The muttered snide comments are witty and biting, while the professions of love are sweetly clumsy.

I enjoyed this quirky, groovy little book and I am excited to read more by Mr. Rudnick.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2013.

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Gemini BitesGemini Bites
Patrick Ryan
Scholastic Press, March 2011
ISBN 978-0-545-22128-3
Hardcover

Kyle Renneker is experiencing serious growing pains in Gemini Bites.  Being a sixteen year old boy, recently out of the closet, is challenging enough.  Add to that, a blatantly despicable twin sister and the freak of the school moving into the family home, you have one “mixed up, muddled up, shook up world”.

A relatively intriguing and somewhat promising premise turned into a disappointing read for me.  I expect that my opinion will be in the minority.  I fully believe that many readers will devour this book as a spot-on account of teen angst, self-awareness followed by gradual self-acceptance.  To that end, I will pinpoint the issues that gave me pause.

1.    Gratuitous sex scene(s): This book appears to be intended for grades 8 – 12.  No, I am not naïve enough to think that this age group is unfamiliar with sex; however, the details given regarding Kyle’s first sexual experience were simply not needed.  They were, in my taste, too explicit for this audience and I do not feel that the description(s) added anything to the book.

2.    Kyle’s Twin is Too Mean: Kyle calls his Twin “Monster”.  He is being too kind.  This character is remarkably hateful.  There is absolutely nothing charming about her.  Her gay slurs are over-the-top obnoxious, not to mention a bit inappropriate for the intended audience.  Her harsh words are never particularly clever or witty—just nasty.  Although the reader doesn’t immediately know the reason for her attitude, it is hard to imagine a scenario that warrants this type of behaviour.  When the “reason” is revealed, it seemed utterly ridiculous to this reader.

3.    Freak Boy: aka Garrett Johnson: Everyone in school knows that Garrett is totally bizarre.  Some assume he is weird because he is gay.  Others know he is straight, but choosy.  Most students half-way believe the rumour that he is a vampire.  After all, it is the one he seems to perpetrate.  I love the fact that Garrett is mature enough to know that he is not yet comfortable in his own skin; but his way of dealing with it seems counter-intuitive.  I felt that he played cruel games within the family that kindly took him in.  It was tough to see the admiration the other characters felt for him, when he seemed too dramatic and whiny to me.

4.    The large family: There are nine people in the Renneker household, all living under the same roof.  To me, there was no added benefit; rather the sheer number of siblings seemed to unnecessarily complicate the story.  This is a short book.  I prefer fewer, richer and deeper characters that many superfluous characters.

So, although Gemini Bites isn’t one of my faves, I have a feeling many readers would vehemently disagree with me.  They would probably be correct.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2013.